Original Jewelry by northern California artist

Bob (Robert) Burkett

July 2016 update Bob's health has not been good the last two years and he's had little ability to cast or create new pieces.  Multiple heart attacks, strokes and other conditions have left him heavily hampered and basically nearly sightless.  Call our gallery to discuss his pieces or Bob!


Robert Burkett has been called the finest beadmaker in America.  He works primarily in silver and shibuichi (pronounced SHEW-BOO-EEE-CHEE), a Japanese process where silver is mixed with copper to produce stunning arrays of color and form. 

Since 2012, Bob's health has been poor, with multiple heart attacks, strokes and arthritis among other issues.  His work is sporadic but no less amazing! 



His unique, one-of-a-kind (only one is made!) or limited edition (less than 12) lost wax cast pendants and beads are cast of 20% silver and 80% copper in a Japanese style called shibuichi.  It was freehand carved by Robert, who is one of the world’s most renown jewelry and bead makers.  Bob goes completely from memory when sculpting the animals and forms.  He sculpts the body and wings in red sculpting wax then carefully creates a one-of-a-kind mold then hand casts the molten metal using a centrifuge.  Working in shibuichi is tricky and very few artists attempt it (it results in very high detail with a wonderful coppery patina, but is notoriously more difficult to work with than bronze or copper alone.).  There are only a handful of people in the USA who attempt to work in Shibuichi and Bob has trained all of them!  He's still the BEST tho!


Bead and Jewelry artist Robert (Bob) Burkett





Bob was born in 1948 and currently lives in Point Richmond, California (a charming artist community just across the bay from San Francisco – and closer to Berkeley than Richmond itself).  He has been casting beads and jewelry for since 1971 and is considered one of the top artists in this field, especially in shibuichi.  He moved from Oakland to Folsom (near Sacramento) as a young man (where he went to Folsom High school and attended Sac City College).  He also lived in Orangevale in the late 60's and early 70's.  He lived in Sacramento until 1989 when he moved to Sante Fe, NM for fifteen years.  In 2004 he returned to California and has lived in Point Richmond – on his classic 1947 all wood boat (which he’s spent thousands of hours restoring) since. 



Silver Curled Mouse bead grabbing his own tail - first cast by Bob Burkett in 1991. 

It was in Sacramento, in 1971, when Bob, visiting a friend who was taking a jewelry making class at American River College, first discovered lost wax jewelry making.  Spending all night, Bob carved a finely detailed dragon and had his friend take it into class to be cast.  The teacher was amazed and wondered how long this young man had been carving jewelry and was shocked to find out it was his very first attempt!  The love of jewelry making had hit Bob and he spent the next several weeks hitting the pavement, visiting jewelry store after jewelry store trying to find someone to apprentice with.  Everyone turned him down as they wanted someone with experience.  He finally met a man named Bill Etgem who owned Down Home – a specialty shop of handmade items including jewelry.  Bill said you can work with me for two weeks – six days a week, eight hours a day – at the end of that two weeks I’ll either hire you or you can go on your way.  Bob ended up working with him for two years! 





In the next 18 years, Bob worked either directly or indirectly for over a dozen jewelers in Sacramento – working mostly with gold and silver and specializing in Wedding jewelry.  He also had a workshop and jewelry store/gallery called "The Studio", first in Old Sacramento during the early 80's and then on 21st Street between K & L in Midtown in '85 & '86.  He made original carvings and castings for clients and for some jewelers as well as unfinished pieces for some and finished for others.  Some of the Jewelers he did designs for include Zales, Daniels, Sheriff, Joe Bury, Mersoner Drano and many others. 

 In 1989 he had the opportunity to move to Sante Fe, New Mexico and to work with a jeweler.  However, once there, and working for several months, the jeweler left town with all his designs and he was flat broke.  So he scraped together $15 for a booth at a local swap meet, created fifteen pieces of jewelry, and was able to sell them all the first day!  The next week he brought thirty pieces and sold them all.  He continued to do well for several years with wedding bands until he realize that there was a large number of bead shops in Sante Fe and a huge demand for high quality, unique beads.  So for the next fourteen years Bob specialized in making and selling beads to various bead stores.  Over the years his beads have all been limited runs and are highly collectable.  Many have increased in value dramatically and are highly prized and sought after. 

Bob had all but retired by the time he moved back to California in 2004.  After a divorce, he wanted a simpler life, living on his boat and essentially only cast a few pieces of jewelry and beads for friends or when he needed some spending money or to pay his boat moorage fees.   During this time he also started teaching classes in wax carving and has shown several people his techniques so that it could continue. 




Bob is enjoying semi-retirement and is teaching Mixed Martial Arts and Ultimate Fighting (Bob is an awarded Martial Artist and has been doing Martial arts for over 40 years).  Bob was a very active young man, in his late teens, he ran over 400 miles a month (and this helped him get out of the Vietnam draft.. he had tendonitis when he went in for his physical and got a 4-F).  Bob has also been a very active rock climber, including free climbing. 

 Many websites touted that he had retired and that they were sold out of his work but to buy it no matter the cost if you could find any of his work.  Thanks to the support of several shops, including Zanzibar Trading Company in Sacramento, Bob is in the process of re-setting up a casting shop and is doing both one-of-a-kind pieces as well as limited edition pendants and beads.  Limited edition is a bit difficult to describe when it comes to Bob, because truly, each piece is unique and while similar, is actually one kind because while he may use master molds for components, each individual piece is one of a kind pieced together and carved from wax before it is cast. 


Bob is well known for his original designs in cast metal beads, and jewelry scale vessels and sculpture, using silver and shibuichi.  Bob specializes in bas relief (pronounced bah, also know as cameo) and incised (also know as intaglio) carving styles. Using simple techniques Bob has developed pieces with complex details which Bob calls "sophisticated simplicity".


Shibuichi is a famous copper and silver alloy employed in many Japanese forms of metalwork. The wax carving techniques he uses incorporate pâte de verre (similar to glass casting).  See below for a better description of Shibuichi. 


Dragonfly with inlaid Turquoise and Sterling Silver Tree Frog by Bob Burkett


There are at least thirty steps (or more) in creating each piece:

Carving wax


(attaching the gates where the metal is poured in)


(Casting it in plaster)

Burn Out

(Heating mold in a kiln to melt out the wax - hence lost wax)


(injecting the metal into the mold)


(removing the sprue/attachments)


(Grinding the sprue down)


an elf mermaid pendant by Robert Burkett



Note that each octopus tentacle is completely hand formed!





Ready for casting - just need to add the sprue

(attaching the gates where the metal is poured in)



Buffed but not yet polished


from left to right:  Driilling out the neck of the bottle and the finished piece!


this is a pencil drawing of a piece Bob wants to do

a belt buckle Robert Burkett did back in the 80's

Bob's restored boat

Bob starts with red wax, and taking a day or more to carve even a simple piece.  After he's happy with the piece, he has to ad rods of wax that will allow the metal to flow into the piece and also allow hot gases to escape (this is called adding sprue or gates).  He then supports that wax piece on a central wax post, and casts the piece in fine plaster.  Melting the wax out (hence the lost wax technique) in a kiln.  Then, using a centrifuge, he “injects” the metal alloy (comprised of 20% silver and 80% copper) using a centrifuge.  After the mold has cooled for a short time, he places it into a vat of water, and the mold literally disintegrates around the crude cast metal piece.  Dousing the piece when it is still hot brings the beautiful copper oxide to the surface of the piece.  Then, with a huge amount of effort and time, he meticulously grinds, buffs and polishes the piece, bringing up the beautiful patina and finish.  For one-of-a-kind pieces, this is where the process ends.  For limited edition pieces, he uses that finished piece to create a rubber mold using a vulcanizing press (essentially making a mold from rubber to replace the original plaster mold, then once again using plaster and wax, creates another one-of-a-kind mold for each additional piece (which are close copies, however they are technically one ofs as well as each one uses a unique mold and Bob often changes elements).  His limited editions are always small, typically under 12 pieces as he becomes bored and always wants to let this creative side out. 


Bob has been featured in MANY magazine articles.  See biographies (and covers) in MANY magazines (over 50 articles and five covers) on Bob Burkett, esp:  Bead & Button Magazine  #46, December 2001 & Bead & Button October 1996.


Shibuichi (四分一) is a billon (
A Billon is an alloy of a precious metal (most commonly silver, but also mercury) with a majority base metal content (such as copper). It is used chiefly for making decorative jewelry, coins, medals, and token coins.) which can be patinated into a range of subtle muted shades.  Its name means "one-fourth" in Japanese and indicates the standard formulation of one part silver to three parts copper, though this may be varied according to the desired effect. However, as the pure hues of the patina are generated by copper oxides and greyed down by silver oxide, the proportion of silver should never exceed that of copper.


For most of its history, shibuichi was mostly used to ornament various fittings for katana
(A katana (刀, katana?) is a type of Japanese sword (nihontō), and is often called a "samurai sword." The term katana may be applied to any curved Japanese sword with a blade length of greater than 24inches. The term is sometimes incorrectly used as a generic name for any kind of Japanese sword) until the Meiji reforms, when most swordmakers began to make purely decorative objects instead. Similar alloys have been used elsewhere but the use of shibuichi to achieve different colored patinas has remained nearly unknown outside Japan, despite recent interest from artisans in the West.  Bob Burkett is one of the very few artisans to attempt this difficult technique.

This technique is a famous copper and silver alloy employed in many Japanese forms of metalwork. The wax carving techniques Bob uses also incorporate pâte de verre (similar to glass casting). 

Note: Bob is variously credit/spelled several ways including first name of Bob or Robert and last name spelled Burkett, Burkette, & Burket. The PROPPER spelling is Bob or Robert Burkett. When searching, try adding “bead” or “pendant” to Bob Burkett as there are a lot of Bob Burketts in the world, but only one beadmaker!  
Please note that we ONLY SELL FINISHED JEWELRY PIECES such as pendants and not Bob's beads (our lease does not allow us to sell beads). 



Above are samples of his one of a kind carvings in red wax --- and below are some of the finished pieces!




The above and below pieces (and more at our gallery) are crafted in the Japanese Shibuichi technique (using a lost wax casting technique where 1/5th silver and 4/5ths copper is used to produce amazingly fine details).  Bob is a world-recognized jewelry maker and is considered "the number one bead maker in the USA".  Highly collectable, his pieces are versatile and affordable while being unique, one-of-a-kind pieces.  Subject to prior sale.  Custom work upon request. 

A huge amount of work goes into every piece, as can be seen below.  The turtle shell and two plastrons (bottom shells) to the left have had a minimal amount of work done after they came out of the cast - the piece on the right has approx. two hours of polishing and finish work done! 

Click on photos to see a larger size...













Twin fish by Bob Burkett (photo really doesn't do justice to piece!)

Articulated (all flippers and tail move side to side and rotate) Sea Turtle by Bob Burkett with turquoise eyes.  Shell is shibuichi while head, flippers and tail are cast in sterling silver.


New dragonfly pendant by Bob Burkett

Dolphin by Bob Burkett


Crayfish pendant by Bob Burkett - Shibuichi on left, Silver on right both with Cubic Zirconia stone


Articulated crab (claws move side to side) crab by Robert Burkett


Articulated crab (claws move side to side) crab by Robert Burkett

Shibuichi pendant set with an orange cubic zirconia stone


New Sea Turtle - has Silver Bead eyes and moveable limbs!

Sterling Silver Cicada Beads

Scorpion by Bob Burkett in Shibuichi


NEW Turtle by Bob Burkett

Small fairy with loop on back (can be made into earrings!)

Large New dragonfly with silver bead

new crab!  Articulated claws

Large Pendant Bead


New Turtle with moveable limbs!


Bob Burkett Bee Beads in Sterling silver or Shibuichi







Skull beads by Robert Burkett in Shibuichi

humble frog bead by Bob Burkett




Elf Mermaid by Bob Burkett


Spiny Rockfish beads by Robert Burkett